Amid growing anxiety about the future of Catholic schools and parishes, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec announced Wednesday that the Diocese of Buffalo will try to raise $11 million for Catholic Charities services and various diocesan programs.
Kmiec and campaign organizers acknowledged that they face an additional challenge in this year's fundraising.
The appeal, which benefits both the diocese and the nonprofit human service agency, will be held in Catholic parishes March 25 through April 1. This year's goal is 1 percent higher than the 2006 goal of $10.9 million.
School closings are expected to be announced later this month, and an initial round of parish mergers, consolidations and closings is slated to be made public in February.
The plans are part of a restructuring process, known as "Journey in Faith and Grace," that began in 2005. In some parts of the diocese, the process has heightened emotions and anxiety among many Catholics.
Withholding gifts because of resentment is "always a possibility," Kmiec said. "But I'm hopeful that people will be able to separate that this is a very special collection."
David Uba, chairman of the 2007 appeal, said the campaign and the diocese's restructuring efforts are "two separate issues."
People continue to need Catholic Charities, regardless of whether there are fewer parishes and schools in the future, Uba said.
Catholic Charities' central intake office on Washington Street has seen a 50 percent increase in clientele over the past six years, he said.
"What we really want to emphasize is, 'We're service-oriented and the need is there,' " said the Rev. Joseph J. Sicari, diocesan director of Catholic Charities.
The diocese, which has a $2.1 million budget deficit this year, will set aside a greater percentage of the 2007 appeal funds for its own operations than it had in previous years.
About $6.4 million of the $11 million goal -- down from $6.6 million in 2006 -- will go toward the operating budget of Catholic Charities, which serves about 180,000 people per year at 56 sites in eight counties.
The rest -- $4.6 million, up from $4.3 million in 2006 -- is earmarked for the Bishop's Fund for the Faith, which helps pay for diocesan programs, such as seminary training, the diocesan retreat house and subsidies for central city parishes and schools.